Better Public Speaking


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Archives for : August2014

Delivering a Vivid Presentation

Your demeanor has a lasting impact on your audience. Preparation is important here, in order to grab the listener’s attention. How can you best put your message across? Here are some useful ideas for keeping your presentations vivid:

Use examples or personal stories to bring your points to life. People love stories and a personal story will enhance your credibility on the subject. For all you know, there could be others in the audience who share similar experiences like yours. They will be able to relate to your personal stories. You will be able to forge a stronger emotional connection with your audience if they share similar experiences as yours.

Keep your body language up-beat. Use your hands, face and other aspects of your physiology to describe your point. Don’t stay stuck behind a lectern unless the nature of the speech or the available infrastructure requires you to remain stuck there. Try describing “round as a ball” using your hands.

Round As a Ball

Your non-verbal cues will be picked up by the audience, trust me. In 1967, Professor Albert Mehrabian conducted a study on communication. The findings of this study indicated that an audience will be able to decode the intent behind the speaker’s words from visual clues 55% of the time. This is the importance of having proper physiology while speaking.

Don’t talk too fast. Less is more. Speaking too fast forces your audience to process your information at an accelerated pace. This will make them mentally tired too soon. Once they become tired, they will no longer concentrate on your speech. Pauses are effective. Pause before an important point to build suspense and get their attention. Pause after an important point to allow them to absorb, understand or consider your message. On the flip side, speaking too slowly will also put your crowd to sleep. So how fast should you speak? Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule on this matter. It depends on many factors. It’s interesting to note that if you want to create an audio book, your publisher will most likely ask you to speak between 150 – 160 words per minute. This speaking rate appears to coincide with a research done on the speaking rate of famous people here.

Use a variety of tones of voice like a radio deejay. Your voice is like a musical instrument. Use it well to enthral your listeners. Some speakers are not willing to vary their vocal tonality because our vocal tonality indicates our emotional state. By not showing their emotions, they think they look more dignified or regal. Well, I leave it to you to decide. The more emotional blockages you have, the more you will be unwilling to provide vocal variety in your speech. The less vocal variety, the more boring you are going to be.

The same research by Professor Albert Mehrabian also concluded that an audience will be able to decode the intent behind the speaker’s words from the tone of voice 38% of the time. Therefore, your vocal tonality will play an important part in spicing up your speech.

Use visual aids if necessary. A visual aid could be a physical item, slides, flip charts or even yourself. If you are speaking on physical fitness or health, you better make sure that your body is a credible visual aid 🙂 The important thing about a visual aid is it must enhance your message or help your audience to understand your point better. Otherwise, the visual aid could work against you by either breaking the flow of your speech or distracting your audience. Therefore, use it wisely.

Public speaking, although daunting, can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, once sufficient time is taken to prepare and rehearse. An enthusiastic speaker who is confident with their material will make a memorable impression on their audience.

Better Public Speaking

How would you know if you are better at public speaking today as compared to last year? Can you recall the last memorable talk or presentation you attended? Now, did it come to you easily, or did you have to crack your brains to remember one? Sadly, too many presentations are easily forgotten. And that’s a big problem because the primary reason the speaker gave the talk was to impart something important to you.

If you were the presenter you might want to consider the three basic things that you can do to ensure that your future speeches are understood and remembered time and time again.

You’ve probably stumbled upon these principles before. As such, they may appear to be somewhat obvious and deceptively simple. Nevertheless, it works all the time. These three basic principles are:-

      Be prepared
      Have a theme for your speech
      Keep your message clear and concise

Be Prepared

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I suppose that you’ve heard this statement a million times. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you understand the importance of preparation. A speaker who is well prepared is a speaker who respects his audience. It is like dressing well for your job interview or first date. The moment the audience detect that you are ill prepared, they will lose respect for you. Are you willing to risk losing the respect of your audience? You decide.

Preparation is probably the most important factor in determining your communication successes. When possible, fix meeting times and speaking engagements well in advance. This will buy yourself the time you need to rehearse your speech. As a rule of the thumb, a one minute speech deserves a thirty minute rehearsal. However, if you are well versed with the subject especially if you are a lecturer who delivers the same talk every other day, you may reduce your rehearsal time according to your discretion.

Then again, not all presentations can be scheduled. In this case, preparation may mean having a thorough understanding of the nature of the issue, which will enable you to speak with authority. When I lack the time to rehearse, I practice in my car while driving to the event. It surely beats the stress of getting caught in traffic jams 🙂

Have a theme for your speech

The acronym above stands for Inform, Persuade, Explain or Entertain. A combination of one or two of the above needs to be your theme.

While preparing your talk or presentation, it’s crucial that you understand what you want to say, who your audience is and why would they be interested to listen. To do this, ask yourself: Who? What? How? When? Where? Why?

Who are you addressing? What are their values, interests and beliefs? What are the common desires with the others in the room? For example, if you are addressing a group of diabetics during a health talk, obviously these people would want to know how to enjoy a better quality of life. They will most likely be looking for hope, solutions and encouragement to deal with their ailment.

Therefore, coming back to I.P.E.E, what message do you wish to convey? My gut feeling would tell me to use a combination of Inform, Persuade and Explain in this situation. I would prefer to leave the “Entertain” aspect out of this type of speech because it could backfire if I’m not careful with my choice of words.

Keep your message clear and concise

When it comes to crafting your message, less is more. However, this is easier said than done. In order to pull this stunt off, you will need to have a superb command of your spoken language. Your vocabulary and grammar has to be excellent. Only then, you will be able to shorten your sentences without losing its meaning.

Let’s come back to the diabetic talk again. Let’s assume that you are a doctor who is delivering this speech. Try to avoid too much information or excessive medical jargon. This will only serve to overload and bore your listeners. Once they are overloaded, they will mentally shut down. When you look into their eyes, you’ll get the impression that “the lights are switched on but nobody’s at home”. Remember, they are not expecting to become experts on the subject. They want solutions, hope and encouragement. Therefore simplicity is best.

If you’re using slides, limit the content of each one to a few main points, a single statement or a picture. Look at the picture on this page with the caption I.P.E.E. As you can see, I have used a picture to help you remember this acronym 🙂 If you really need to provide them with a lot of technical data, this data can be provided to the audience in electronic form for them to download and read prior to or after your presentation.

In conclusion while implementing the three basic principles you learnt today, ask yourself what your ‘success criteria’ is. How would you know if and when you have effectively communicated what you had in mind? If you presented in a formal workshop, distributing a feedback form to all participants would be useful. This questionnaire will serve as a good indicator of your strengths and areas of improvement.

Therefore remember the three basic principles which are:-

      Be prepared
      Have a theme for your speech
      Keep your message clear and concise

All the best to you 🙂

Take the Bull by Its Horns

In the early 1700’s, bullfighters in Spain were known to defeat the raging bull by forcing its head down by grasping its horns. This was the ultimate display of facing ones fear by doing the most terrifying thing. Today, most of us no longer fight with four-legged bulls anymore.

We do however, fight with imaginary “bulls” called confidence killers. When we intend to embark on something difficult or complicated the imaginary raging bull will rear its ugly head.

I encourage you to be confident even in the face of these confidence killers because in many cases these imaginary “bulls” are exactly what they are; imaginary 🙂

You can be confident! All you need to do is to rid yourself of the confidence killers. Confidence killers are merely a self-defeating thought pattern. Many of us go through life harboring these self-defeating thought patterns.

See if you’ve got any of these “bulls” in your thoughts:

1. The All or Nothing Shooter

This way of thinking might be one of the reasons why you can’t seem to celebrate the small wins you’ve been achieving in life. Were you one of those kids in school who went home crying when you got one wrong in a test? If you were, you probably fall in this category. You think you are a failure when your performance is not perfect. You can help yourself to increase your confidence if you didn’t spend so much energy trying to be a perfectionist. Stop being so hard on yourself!

Every time I play Fifa 2014 with my 16 year old son on his PlayStation 3, I end up losing. I lose simply because my reflexes are much slower than his. I am more than 3 times his age, by the way. Do I lose my confidence because of this? NO! I keep celebrating, cheering & congratulating myself every time I score a goal. The end result? Nowadays, my greatest loss would be a 2 goal margin. If this doesn’t sound impressive to you, it’s okay. Once upon a time, I used to lose by a 5 goal margin 🙂

I improved my performance simply by celebrating, cheering & congratulating myself for the small successes I achieved. Here’s a motivational talk of mine which emphasizes the same point in a different way.

2. The Gloomy Cloud of Destruction

Watch out! There is a calamity lurking behind every corner. Expect it. The Gloomy Cloud of Destruction may make you imagine depressing things like: ‘I failed my biology test; it is pointless in even thinking about university, now.’

In my first attempt to sell on eBay, I was permanently banned for some “heinous crime” I supposedly committed on eBay. I appealed to them and begged for forgiveness. I explained that this was my first time trading on eBay and I had no idea regarding the violation that I supposedly committed. Did they lift my suspension? No. Did I get depressed? Yes. The Gloomy Cloud of Destruction got the better of me. However, I’ve moved on. I’ve discovered many better ways to make money online rather than waste my time on eBay.

3. Warrior of Negative Magnification

If you entertain to this confidence killer you’ll have a hard time trying to be confident. This naughty fellow has got a warped idea that if its good, it not important or it doesn’t really count. He will take any little negative molehill and magnify it into a mountain.

If you won 8 speech contests but lost in the 9th one, he will harp on that loss and you’ll never appreciate the 8 trophies as your great achievements.

Remember, in any competition / contest, you are competing against yourself to bring out the best in you. As long as you improved in some way or another from the previous competition / contest, you have become a better person. That’s all that matters.

4. The ‘If I feel it, it must be true’ Creature

This creature will shut down all the clear thinking parts of your brain! You may think that your instinct or some divine voice is speaking to you. While that may be true, the Divine also gave us a left brain to think logically. Sometimes, your feelings may not necessarily match up with the reality. We all have days when we don’t feel our best or perform at our best.

I don’t have a hard and fast rule in this instance because sometimes, I would also like to think that the Divine is speaking to me 🙂 Therefore all I can say is trust yourself and make a good decision. Once the decision is made, take responsibility for it. Don’t blindly accept all emotions as the truth. Be confident enough to consider that tomorrow you may feel differently about the matter.

5. The Creepy Should

Fusspots are very good at “should” statements. “Should” statements are more about what you think other people expect from you than what you really desire. Were you born in this world to live up to the expectations of others? Somehow, I don’t think so.

Should statements can be along these lines: “Everyone should get married before the age of 35”. The person then thinks ‘Oh dear. I’m 36 and I don’t seem to have a steady partner! There must be something really wrong with me. I must be gay / lesbian.’

The way I look at it, there is nothing really wrong or right about being the way you are. Perhaps you are in the wrong environment and therefore you are looked upon as weird. Your responsibility is to move to the “right” environment where you will be accepted by like-minded people.

When you feel accepted by like-minded people, you will gain self-confidence.

6. Slanderous Labeller

Let’s chuck this fellow in prison and throw away the keys. You understand the thought. It’s the one that we use to blame things on something. ‘I am a loser. I was born this way.’

In my years of experience as a Speech Evaluator, I have trained myself to first listen to the words spoken, then listen to the words unspoken. The Slanderous Labeller has got the tendency to use subtle self-disempowering phrases such as, “I am trying to do..”, “I hope to achieve..”, etc. While these phrases seem innocent at the outset, the unspoken emotions beneath these phrases have the tendency to convey struggle, low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence.

Well, if you are going to think labels, you might as well label yourself a confident person. Instead of “I am trying..”, say “I am doing..”. Instead of “I hope to achieve..”, say “I am moving towards my goal..”.

Do also watch this useful video on self-disempowering words. I chanced upon this video while researching for material to write this article. Hope it helps 🙂

7. Praise Constrictor

Just like a boa constrictor, this slimy guy just can’t seem to let you receive a compliment. Remember, you deserve to be praised. Therefore, if someone tells you that you look elegant in that dress, accept it wholeheartedly. Your willingness to accept praise is closely related to how much you love and respect yourself. If your self-esteem is healthy, you will have no problems in accepting a sincere compliment.

By now, you have probably recognized one or more of these villains which have been impeding your confidence. You will also realize that many of these villains were a result of your childhood upbringing. Instead of feeling bitter towards your parents, I would suggest that you use the tips suggested in this article to cancel these confidence-killing thoughts.

Do also take a close look at how you are treating your children. Are you inadvertently passing on some of your villains to them? If you are, forgive yourself and make a conscious effort to change today. “If the mountain streams are polluted, then the lakes and the rivers will also be polluted” – Confucius

I wish you well.

Presenting Without Slides

These days, many presentations are made with the help of PowerPoint or Prezi slides. There are also teachers and lecturers who use these applications to spice up their presentations. Depending on the nature of the presentation, not having slides can be quite boring. This is because the presentation will become monotonous, with no visual aids to help clarify the presenter’s points. Slides usually provide a fresh outlook for the audience and will also give the crowd some visual explanations to the points that are being told.

However, in certain circumstances, you simply can’t use slides due to technical or logistical constraints. Your laptop may have broken down or a projector is unavailable. You may be presenting your talk in a restaurant over dinner where it’s simply not practical to conduct a PowerPoint presentation.

  • HOW TO Give a Great Presentation - 7 Presentation Skills and Tips to Leave an Impression
    YouTube Video
    HOW TO Give a Great Presentation - 7 Presentation Skills and Tips to Leave an Impression
As such, if you decide not to use slides, it is very important that you use some creativity to enhance your presentation. This creativity will keep your audience interested and focused on the presentation. The primary consideration that has to be remembered to give a good presentation without slides is to know precisely what you are going to talk about. If you are well versed with the subject you intend to talk about, you should be able to present it without slides.

Hmm..easier said than done, eh? In all fairness to the usage of slides, it does make your job of explaining complex matters in an easy way. Slides will help you to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time too. If you choose not to use slides, then you’ll have to keep your presentations short and simple.

Without slides, you will most likely need to rely on picture painting words, flip charts, props and probably a whiteboard too. These alternative ‘tools’ will help give clarity to your audience. It does not matter if your props are large, small, funny or serious, as long as it relates to the point that you are trying to make and that the audience see it!

Ensure that you see, hear and feel (in your mind) what exactly it is that you want your audience to also see, hear and feel. Your vocal tonality will also help to enhance your presentations in the absence of slides. One good way of presenting without the help of slides is to tell a story, or an anecdote that has universal appeal. When telling stories, you will be able to utilize vocal variety, vivid imagery and other types of visual aids to engage the audience

Practice, practice, practise. Rehearse your speech as often as possible. I generally rehearse a five minute speech for one hour in order to get it right. Your rehearsals will make you look polished and will serve as a confidence booster while speaking. Only practice can make you a successful speaker, and this is one task that cannot be delegated to anyone else.

Remember that when you are not using slides, you are the visual aid of the presentation. Your audience will gain more interest in what you say, instead of your visuals, fancy slides or overheads. So basically, without PowerPoint or Prezi, it is important that you be more confident and well versed in your speech. Always remember that you are the master and your slides (if you choose to use them) are your slaves. You must be able to perform equally well with or without your slides because YOU ARE THE MASTER!

I wish you the very best in your next presentation. Good luck 🙂